The reason for hiring an attorney who is a seasoned estate planning expert is to have someone guide you to consider Florida estate planning questions that you would not normally think of asking.
Sometimes, attorneys who focus in a practice area such as family law or litigation just purchase some software to create estate planning documents for an additional income stream.
Hiring an attorney who doesn’t regularly practice in estate planning is generally a bad move for clients. There are critical questions that must be asked that are only gleaned from years of experience in practice areas such as estate planning, probate and elder law. This article will consider 5 deep estate planning questions that are often not asked, as an example of the kinds of issues that your experienced estate attorney will bring up.
5 “Often Not Asked” Estate Planning Questions
The following 5 key estate planning questions often not asked are examples of deep considerations that should be raised by your estate planning attorney.
1. Have you considered all of your important relationships?
This may sound obvious, but often close friendships or intimate relationships can be neglected. If the parties are not legally married and no provisions have been made this planning can be missed because simple questions about who needs legal protection have not been asked. These questions encompass the area of non-traditional estate planning in Florida.
Non-married cohabitants often reside together without the formality of a legal marriage. Same-sex couples who may not have elected legal marriage are also in the realm of non-traditional planning. Legal documents must prioritize these important relationships or they will not be considered under the state laws due to the non-existence of a “legal” relationship status.
2. Who is going to take care of your pets?
Our pets are often highly valued relationships and yet are treated essentially as personal property upon the death of the owner. This means that absent any specific provisions, they will be distributed to whomever wants them. In a worse case scenario, pets may be rendered homeless and sent to a shelter. However, with proper Florida estate planning, Florida pet trust provisions may be includes as part of a Florida revocable living trust to both designate and compensate a desired person to take care of them.
3. Do you have genetic material on ice?
A major area where the bounds of science has been ahead of the law is in “cord blood” and “cord tissue” estate planning. Cord blood is one example of the burgeoning area of estate planning for genetic material. As I mentioned, it is important to determine who receive the rights to cord blood and potentially cord tissue in the event of death and proper planning through using a revocable living trust can designate who receive these rights and also can avoid a forfeiture of survivorship rights by default.
4. Have you ever made large gifts to others?
The federal estate tax is an ongoing estate planning concern for many wealthier Americans. The question of large gifts is essentially an estate tax planning question and it is important because large gifts will reduce the overall amount that may be passed to beneficiaries free of Federal estate taxes. So large lifetime gifts that are missed during the estate planning process may result in unfortunate surprises and tax consequences.
5. What are your passwords, user names or security questions?
In the age of digital estate planning, it is so critical to ask the question of how to access your computers and “cloud based” web accounts. Often when these questions are not addressed, substantial confusion and hardships can arise for family members who are seeking to determine the estate assets and manage financial accounts following the death of the principal.
It is important to understand that the above questions are just the tip of the iceberg, and there are many other similar considerations that may be posed by your experienced estate planning attorney. Every client every estate, and every family situation is unique.
This article is an updated version of original posted on July 30, 2015.